Discussing BIG Things with Steven Spielberg and Ruby Barnhill #TheBFGEvent #TheBFG

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Disclosure: I received an all expense paid press trip in exchange for my honest coverage of Disney’s The BFG, Disney XD’s Future-Worm, and related events.
Photographs courtesy of Coralie Seright, LovebugsAndPostcards.com – Film Images provided by Disney.

From the moment the incomparable legend that is Steven Spielberg and talented newcomer Ruby Barnhill walked in, there was a natural happiness and awe in the room.  Perhaps more importantly, both parties, the talent, and bloggers, equally wanted to be there.
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Right off the bat, we all enjoyed a humorous glimpse into Mr. Spielberg’s mind thanks to fellow blogger, James of The Rockfather, and his collectibles.  The BFG, affectionately known as The Big Friendly Giant, would not stay upright due to its large head.   Steven joked that The BFG had too much Frobscottle to drink, contributing to The BFG being tipsy.  If you’ve read the book or had the privilege to see the movie, you understand that reference.  If not, you soon will.
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With it taking nearly eight months to cast the role of Sophie, Steven believed it was fate saving the best for last in order to have the shoes filled by someone who truly reached his heart. Although he did not give up hope that the perfect talent would be cast for the role of Sophie, he began to look over his alternate choices in the event he’d need to be prepared for that.
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In the end, that didn’t even matter once he saw the audition that the talented Ruby Barnhill and her parents had sent to Nina Gold Casting. He said his whole life changed for the better in that moment.  All was okay in Steven Spielberg’s world, as he was so excited.  He happened to be shooting Bridge of Spies with Mark Rylance (already cast as The BFG at that point) and Tom Hanks.  Spielberg laughs because he remembers not caring at all that Tom Hanks saw him so excited about a movie that Hanks just happened to not be in.  The relief and thrill took over many other cares at that point.
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The only disappointment (at that time) 10-year-old Ruby Barnhill faced is not being able to celebrate in the same capacity as the adults.  Her happiness and her parents jumping up and down after receiving a call from Nina Gold (casting) would have to suffice as her “glass of champagne”.  Perhaps the 100 balloons her Nana bought her would brighten her existing smile, as well.  For Ruby, it was such a thrilling honor to be able to follow in her father’s footsteps.  She’s wanted to be an actress since she first saw her father in plays, as early as three or four years old herself.

 Fun fact: Ruby’s father, Paul Barnhill, is in the movie as well.  When The BFG is being guided through the palace, be sure to watch for the gentleman giving direction to The Big Friendly Giant.  That gentleman is Ruby’s dad.  

With this being Ruby’s first major role, there’s nothing like going big or going home.  Why not kick things off with Steven Spielberg!  She credits Spielberg with  teaching her things about acting and directing, naturally.  But also that it’s okay to make mistakes or happy accidents as Mr. Spielberg refers to them.  She admits struggling with not liking to make mistakes.  She was reassured it was okay to make those happy accidents because sometimes they even end up in the movie.
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Asked how he felt about influencing a new generation of children, Spielberg admits he did not even understand the power films have in general when he first began making movies.  Understandably, he was not aware, therefore could not appreciate the outreach of cinema until he reached an older, wiser and more experienced time in his life.  With the success of Jaws, ET, and countless other films, he came to realize that cinema outlives the filmmakers.
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“It doesn’t matter what our backgrounds are, sometimes a feeling can be communicated all over the world.” – Steven Spielberg, on how films can affect us all no matter what language we speak, beliefs we have, etc.

Although Disney had been part of Mr. Spielberg’s life for as long as he could remember, he has so much pride for this being his first on-film collaboration.  He remarked that for his film to follow the traditional Disney castle logo is something he’s waited his entire life for.  Thanks to Roald Dahl and The BFG, it all came together.

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Taken aback with a question of how she felt with perhaps becoming a new kind of Disney hero, a princess for a new generation, the wise beyond her years Ruby Barnhill is thrilled to represent a strong female lead.  One she feels you might see in Star Wars or Brave, for example.

Keeping with the theme of strong, young female characters, Mr. Spielberg feels Disney doesn’t get enough credit for implementing that in earlier films such as, Cinderella, Snow White, and Dumbo.  He singles out Dumbo’s mother as an incredible character, filling the shoes of a strong, female role model.  Again, Steven gives credit to Mr. Disney for putting the empowerment of women on the map, even through animation, which helps on and off screen.

 As we neared the end of our time with Mr. Spielberg and Miss Barnhill, no one wanted it to end, but no one was more vocal about it than the legend himself.  He wanted the questions from our blogger group to keep coming.  That is what I meant when I said everyone genuinely wanted to be there.  Among many  fantastic moments, that is one that undoubtedly stands out. 


Something that truly made quite the impression on me was when Mr. Spielberg discussed what he wanted this generation to get out of this movie.  It was a beautiful, yet unexpected answer.  He wants people to understand how important it is to both give and receive hugs.  Why, you ask? He feels (and I agree) that it doesn’t matter how different the person looks or how tall they are or how short they are, what color, what language is spoken by them, what their beliefs are — we ALL need to hug each other.

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“We have to hug each other more when we’re so different from each other.  That’s what I hope people get from this.” -Steven Spielberg, on his thoughts of what he hopes people get from The BFG movie

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Perhaps my other favorite moment, although hard to narrow down, was when we were all sitting with Mr. Spielberg and Miss Barnhill.  Steven was fondly telling of his mornings as a child.  He’d be getting ready to go to school, all while his mother, a strong female role in his life, was preparing for her neighborhood friends and fellow moms to arrive.  She’d set out pastries and coffee cups in anticipation of another memorable get together with friends.
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That really spoke to me because, although many/most of my friends live far away, I have experienced that closeness with my fellow MOPS members (Mothers Of Pre-Schoolers) and it’s something genuine I long for many days.

In my mind, Steven Spielberg’s mom was an unofficial founding member of MOPS.   At any rate, I will never forget what may be one of my absolute favorite, truly genuine interviews of my blogging career.


Disney’s The BFG stomps its way into theaters July 1, 2016

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  1. Great interview and how cute is Ruby? Can’t wait to see the film!
    Dianna Ranere recently posted..Star Trek Beyond Final Trailer Featuring Rihanna’s New SingleMy Profile

  2. I consider myself a hugaholic so I love that Steven Spielberg believes in the power of hugs. I loved your post, Jenn, you are such a great storyteller. I almost felt as if I were in the room with you. In a way less awesome way, of course, in the sense that you were part of an incredible –historical moment! Love you, lady!

  3. Oh wow! What an experience to interview him! I always love hearing casting stories 🙂

  4. This is amazing. Incredible. I cannot even comprehend being in a room with such a legend. And what great answers he had (Ruby too!). I totally teared up at the part about the hugs. That is so true. I want to go give someone a hug now! Like…. right now! Thank you for sharing this experience!

    • Tessa, I seriously teared up in the room when he said that. I kind of hope no one noticed, but here I am announcing it to the world! It was truly the most moving, simply genuine interview experience I’ve been blessed with. One last thing…I’m sending you a hug! <3

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